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UKRAINE INSISTS CHORNOBYL SARCOPHAGUS IS SAFE. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko said in Prague on 23 April that there is no "major danger" posed by the concrete encasement of the reactor that exploded at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, Reuters reported. "We have experts who are managing the situation and are in control," Zlenko added. Zlenko was countering remarks made on 22 April by Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev, who said the concrete "sarcophagus" at Chornobyl is collapsing and needs reinforcement. Rumyantsev also said the concrete shield is leaking radiation. Some media have speculated that Rumyantsev's comments were a response to a dossier published on 21 April on the Ukrainian Security Service's website ( The dossier presents secret correspondence between the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR and Moscow and indicates that Kyiv repeatedly warned Moscow of the dangers at Chornobyl before the 1986 disaster, but the alarms went unheeded. In particular, the documents indicate the Chornobyl plant was the scene of 29 accidents between 1977 and 1981, mostly owing to equipment failures. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT SAYS HE WANTS DEFAMATION CASES STOPPED... President Leonid Kuchma said at a news conference in Kyiv on 23 April that he has asked Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun to discontinue the criminal investigations launched recently against a number of regional media outlets for allegedly defaming the president and obstructing his activities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 April 2003), UNIAN reported. Kuchma said he did not play any role in launching the cases, adding that he even does not know what media were targeted by the Prosecutor-General's Office. JM

...AND SAYS RETURN OF NBC BATTALION DEPENDS ON KUWAIT. President Kuchma told the same news conference on 23 April that the return of the Ukrainian anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) battalion that was dispatched to Kuwait in late March (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 March 2003) is dependent on a Kuwaiti government decision, UNIAN reported. Kuchma noted that Kuwait requested a six-month deployment of the unit and now may either request shortening or prolonging its stay. JM

POLISH FINANCE MINISTER PROPOSES CORPORATE TAX CUT. Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko on 24 April announced that he is in favor of reducing the corporate tax from the current 27 percent to 19 percent, Polish media reported, also noting that Kolodko's move comes as a surprise. Kolodko made the offer conditional on the acceptance of his proposals for public-finance reform (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 15 April 2003), which provide for the abolition of tax exemptions. "Industrial production in the first quarter [of 2003] rose by as much as 4.4 percent.... I feel that it is necessary to try and strengthen these tendencies [by offering a corporate tax cut]," Polish Television quoted Kolodko as saying. JM

CZECH FIELD-HOSPITAL PERSONNEL ARRIVE IN AL-BASRAH. The first members of a Czech military hospital's staff arrived in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah on 24 April, CTK reported. The agency quoted Dusan Lupuljev, commander of the joint Czech-Slovak military unit in the Persian Gulf, as saying Czech doctors might remain in Iraq for as long as two years to help Iraqis return a local hospital to fully working order. "We want future generations [of Iraqis] to say, 'The Czechs were here then, and they left something behind,'" Lupuljev said. The Defense Ministry's Vladimir Palan told CTK the same day that U.S. Galaxy military transport planes will take over the rest of the field hospital's transport to Iraq on 25 April. The initial deployments utilized An-124 planes under contract with the Ukrainian Volga-Dnepr company. The field hospital is to start functioning in early May. MS

UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER VISITS PRAGUE. Visiting Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko told journalists after talks with his Czech counterpart Cyril Svoboda in Prague on 24 April that Ukraine shares the Czech Republic's views on Iraq's postwar reconstruction, CTK reported. The two chief diplomats said the role of international organizations in that process must be boosted. They also agreed there is a need for their countries to reach an agreement on ways to cope with the problem of illegal Ukrainian workers in the Czech Republic. Svoboda and Zlenko said they agreed in principle to replacing an expired accord on the mutual employment of nationals with a new agreement, adding that the Czech Labor Ministry is drafting that proposed agreement. The two sides discussed a possible investment-protection treaty and the opening of a Ukrainian consulate in Brno and a Czech consulate in Lvyv. Zlenko also met with Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, with whom he discussed the settlement of Ukraine's several-billion-crown debt to the Czech Republic, and with President Vaclav Klaus. MS

SLOVAK ROMA REPRESENT SECOND-LARGEST GROUP OF ASYLUM SEEKERS IN CZECH REPUBLIC. The Slovak government's commissioner for Romany affairs, Klara Orgovanova, discussed the rising tide of Slovak Romany applicants for asylum in the Czech Republic with Czech officials in Prague on 24 April, CTK reported. Some 355 Slovak nationals have applied for asylum in 2003, representing the second-largest group of asylum seekers after Ukrainians (432), Czech Interior Ministry spokeswoman Gabriela Bartikova told CTK. In 2002, 843 Slovaks applied for asylum in the Czech Republic. Roman Kristof, of the Czech government's Council for Romany Affairs, said the asylum seekers are just the tip of the iceberg in Slovak Romany migration. He said that, according to some estimates, as many as 20,000 Slovak Roma have moved to the Czech Republic due to cuts in social benefits in Slovakia and widespread usury, which reportedly leads some Roma to go abroad to flee creditors. Orgovanova and Czech Human Rights Commissioner Jan Jarab discussed programs in their countries aimed at coping with the problems faced by their respective Romany communities and stemming migration to Western Europe. MS

SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO TO SACK MANY DIPLOMATS. The government agreed on 24 April to replace 16 ambassadors and several other diplomats, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Those sacked received their posts as nominees of the Montenegrin opposition, which supported the former Yugoslav government of President Vojislav Kostunica. The list of those recalled includes ambassadors to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Italy, and Albania. PM